Meet the Maker Event #1

Customising – a new Luxury in Portugal

For our first Meet the Maker, Porto Fashion Makers brought together Carla Costa, marketing director at Topázio, Ricardo Conceição, managing director at Atelier des Créateurs and Gonçalo Cruz, COO at My Swear, to discuss customising as a new luxury feature in Portugal.
Text by Eliana Macedo - PFM Team Member
Insights Meet the maker
December 17, 2015 13:14

To the beat of machinery in full production process, the discussion kicks off in the premises of the Topázio factory, in Gondomar. Catarina Rito, journalist, sets the tone.

What sets ‘customising’ and ‘tailored production’ apart? Is the consumption of luxury goods on the rise in Portugal? What’s the international insight on the Portuguese market? These are the issues to be addressed.

The front people of these luxury brands, different in size and also conceptually, shared their stories and met the curiosity of the audience in an intimate, fluid and lively conversation.  Opinions were both conflicting and complementary. What cannot be disputed is that, that day, Topázio came alive with a breath of fresh air.

© Miguel Silva Rocha

Gonçalo Cruz begins by explaining that customising allows for a variety of little tweaks to the final product, such as a change of colour or material. On the other hand, a tailored shoe requires fitting to the sole of the feet.

‘When we talk about mass customisation brands, the concept of size is non-existent’.

Following this, he also addresses the concept of ‘personalisation’. The COO at MY SWEAR states that once the client has already customised his product, he can also personalise it with personal elements, such as a signature.

© Miguel Silva Rocha

Ricardo Conceição agrees that ‘tailored’ is a concept involving ‘complete personalisation of a product, down to the last detail’, and with these services, price is not of the essence. In these cases, there are no limits to what can be done. They can be about a very small detail or a very eccentric request. In the end, ‘measure is the search for comfort and identity’, he adds.

Topázio also makes it possible for consumers to customise, personalise and request tailored pieces. According to Carla Costa, it’s the external market which mostly seeks customisation. In the national market, what is normally done is to personalise pieces by engraving a monograph or a family’s coat of arms. 

© Miguel Silva Rocha

The three speakers agree on this: anything is possible and everything can be tailored according to consumers’ tastes, as long as price is not an issue. Luxury is, we assume, a market niche. However that is not always the case.

‘The client is not necessarily a connaisseur, he or she is someone who seeks identity, comfort or the sense of belonging to a tribe’.

says Ricardo Conceição. ‘With the advent of new technologies, customisation became democratic’, he claims.

Carla Costa feels that ‘consumers are now more demanding, they seek exclusiveness and want to feel part of the creative process.’ Gonçalo Cruz agrees and highlights that ‘all this access to information creates a lot of pressure on brands’, as ‘consumers consider all the alternatives available to them before purchasing a product.’

Carla Costa, Ricardo Conceição, Gonçalo Cruz e Catarina Rito © Miguel Silva Rocha

The COO at My Swear thinks that while ‘in Portugal we know there is a network of people that do x or y’, internationally there a ‘psychological frontier’, people think ‘for me to spend over two thousand euros on a piece, it needs to be really special.’ The director at Atelier des Créateurs adds : ‘Sometimes it only takes a little something so that the piece becomes really special’.

Catarina Rito, agent provocateur, asks: ‘When there are flexible customisation, personalisation and tailored production services available, do consumers still prefer to invest in brands? Or would they still rather invest in exclusive products?’ Opinions differ.

© Miguel Silva Rocha

While Ricardo Conceição  claims that ‘a suit from the Atelier des Créateurs is superior in quality when compared to a brand product of the same cost’, Gonçalo Cruz believes that ‘people still prefer to have a signature and then customize it than having a tailored product’.

However, going too far when it comes to personalising can implicate collateral damages for the brand. By allowing too many changes to the original product to be made, the brand runs the risk of diluting its signature and having its sense of identity affected, says Gonçalo.

© Miguel Silva Rocha

Carla Costa admits that, at Topázio, these two realities coexist. However, the marketing director shares that the century-old brand’s showroom  is only available after a visit to the factory which involves looking at the different stages of the manufacturing process,  ‘because only after becoming aware of what the production process entails, does the client understand the value of the pieces’.

Portugal is known for producing high quality small series, being very sought after, and ever more so, to produce for international luxury brands.


© Miguel Silva Rocha

‘Consumers’ pressure is pushing brands to produce smaller series and the industry to meet this reality and react accordingly’, says Gonçalo Cruz.

‘It’s the flexibility of the Portuguese professionals and our industry’s know-how that makes our market unique’claims Ricardo. We must invest in our skills and product value and not  feed price wars’, he advises.

© Miguel Silva Rocha

Following the intense sharing and the in-depth discussion process, people sat at a table beautifully set by ‘Pratos em Volta’ to continue the conversation. Right at the heart of the factory, and among the clanking  and the klonking of the machinery ,   the attendees delighted over lunch, prepared by Chef Filipa Cardoso from Diospiro. The knowledge exchange was extended by a tour around the Topázio factory.

Our first ‘Meet the Maker’ is only the beginning of numerous and exclusive meetings with the city’s makers. We draw the curtain on round one already dying to meet the new talents in store for April 2016.